What to do before you sell your Puget Sound home.

I am so excited to help you get your home ready to list! Investing your time, energy, and resources into the suggestions below may help you net thousands more on your home.

When you list with me and the Serving the Sound Team, your home will be seen by thousands through Morrison House Sotheby’s International marketing platform. If you have not already set up a time to meet with us, give us a chance to show you our cutting-edge marketing, market insight, experience, and how we use technology and social media to market houses for sale in the Puget Sound area. Many of our listings have even sold for record-breaking prices!

Since most buyers will first see your home online, having it ready to go for the photo and video shoot is very important. We will work with you to help prepare your home. Please do not feel the need to have your home show ready before our first walk-through. We have sold many homes for sale in northern Washington state, and it is very rare that any home is 100% ready to go on day one. Don’t be embarrassed to show us around. Your home may look a lot like our own homes, with piles of laundry, Legos everywhere, and kids’ homework spread out all over the dining room table. That’s okay!

Realtor walk through. If needed, I will take the time to walk through your home with you, room by room, to discuss possible improvements that you can make with little to no out-of-pocket expense. I will only suggest things that will help you decrease your days on market and increase your profits from the sale.

Change light bulbs and update light fixtures. It’s easy to forget about all the bulbs that have burned out over the years, but you will want your home to be as bright as possible. Lighting makes an incredible difference. Please ensure every bulb is working, including lamps, pool light, landscaping lights, and the light over your oven. We will have these all on for photo day.

Get some boxes. A big part of the adventure you’re about to embark on involves reducing clutter. You’ll want your home clutter-free so prospective new owners can picture themselves living there. Think of it as getting a head-start on moving! You can find free boxes on local FB neighborhood pages and should box up anything you are not using. Organize the closets and pantries and remember that less is more.

Storage unit or garage. Consider storing any boxes, clutter, bulky furniture, and toys in a storage unit or in the garage. If your furniture is old, damaged, and worn, it may be best to show that room empty. We will help put a plan together for any furniture that may need to be removed or relocated.

Make an extra set of keys. Prospective buyers and their Washington real estate agents will need to access your home for showings, so you’ll need an extra set of keys for the digital lockbox. Agent showings are typically scheduled through a great app called ShowingTime. Sellers and listing agents receive a text notification for all showing requests. Agents will only access your home with your approval, and most showings are scheduled the day before.

Tackle the bathrooms. Remove all the toiletries you have on display and ensure that counters are clear. Think white and bright! Invest in some new white towels for the towel racks in all of the bathrooms. The shower curtain should also be light and neutral.

Laundry room. Cleaned and organized is the name of the game. If you have a shelf above your washer and dryer with a bunch of stuff on it, consider getting 3 matching bins to hide your stuff in. Pinterest “Laundry Rooms” for inspiration.

Spruce up the kitchen. The kitchen is one of the rooms buyers are most attracted to, so if you’re looking to skip a room, this shouldn’t be it. You’ll want the counters to be as clear as possible. Clean inside the oven, microwave, and fridge (and remove the magnets, photos, and reminders from it). You may also want to clear the decor on top of the cabinets, which can be distracting and collect dust. Consider investing in some fresh flowers and a beautiful white or clear bowl with some fresh fruit in it, such as lemons.

The bedrooms. The bedrooms in the house should be inviting, which means more cleaning and decluttering, and possible investing in a few props. If you don’t already have one, invest in a neutral-colored duvet cover or a fluffy white down comforter (Amazon is a great resource). Think of your last visit to a luxury hotel and aim for that aesthetic. Ensure all beds have a minimum of four pillows and crisp white sheets. Remove any bulky furniture.

Master closet. Take a close look at what you have not worn in over a year (including shoes). It may be a good idea to pack those items up or donate them. Less clothing hanging and folded on shelves will help make your closet appear larger.

Plumbing. Take care of any known leaks or plumbing issues and update any old faucets. Switching out the kitchen faucet can be an affordable way to freshen up your kitchen.

Tackle the living room. Clean the sofa and chairs and possibly invest in some new light-colored throw pillows. Hide the magazine rack and all the clutter that has accumulated. Hide the wires from your TV/stereo/speakers in all rooms, especially for photo and video day. Family photos are usually fine, as long as there are only a few.

Dining room. Remove the kids’ homework and the piles of stuff that may have accumulated on the dining room table. Clean up the hutch. Simple and clean is best. Table should have one simple centerpiece.

Store vs. donate vs. throw away. It’s a pain (and expensive) to store all the stuff you don’t really need, so don’t pack anything that you don’t plan to bring to the next house. Consider donating anything you do not want or things that you have not used in over a year, including clothing. Have a garage sale or post items for sale or free on local FB pages. House of Refuge and the Goodwill are also great options for donations.

The entrance. Remember that most buyers will have an emotional reaction to your home within 15 seconds of entering it, so what they experience at the entrance is CRITICAL. You will want your entrance and front yard to be clean, de-cluttered, and inviting. Paint your front door, if necessary, invest in fresh throw pillows or cushions on patio furniture, add fresh flowers to a pot, pull weeds, and put away your hose. Check out Target for a fresh, new, affordable welcome mat and simple wreath. Power wash the exterior and driveway, if necessary. Keep the front porch swept before showings.

Backyard. Ensure your yard is free of weeds, and that it is clean and inviting. If you have a pool, ensure the water is clear and the pool tile is clean.

Personal items. Once you list your home for sale, think of it as an investment you are trying to get top dollar for. You will want your home to appeal to as many buyers as possible. That will only happen if they can picture their own stuff in your house. Walk through every room in your house and pretend you’re a buyer. What needs to change? What do you need to get rid of?

Paint touch-ups and re-painting. A fresh coat of paint is one of the cheapest ways to freshen up your home. Bold colors are bound to be a turn-off to some buyers, so to appeal to the most people possible, take the time to re-paint if necessary. Kitchen and main living areas should have neutral colors. Light colors will help small rooms look bigger. Bedrooms can usually get away with bolder colors, and our team will help you with those suggestions. Don’t forget about baseboards and ceilings, as they might need some white paint. Popular colors by Sherwin Williams that work great for most homes include “Accessible Beige” and “Anew Gray.”

Make a list of all the little stuff that you’ve been avoiding repairing, including the leaky faucet, the picture holes in the wall, etc., and complete the repairs before listing. If you aren’t handy yourself, bring in a handyman to take care of everything. Also replace air filters.

Get the windows cleaned. Investing in professional window cleaning before your photo and video day is well worth it. Did you know that, over time, your windows build up a layer of dirt, water deposits, streaks, smudges, and fingerprints? This grime can obscure the incoming light and become unsightly.

Get the carpets cleaned. Unless your carpets are brand new, you’ll want to have them steam cleaned. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes. If your tile grout is discolored, you may want to consider having that professionally cleaned as well. If your carpets are past the point of cleaning, we may want to discuss other options for replacing flooring.

The final clean. While you can do this final step yourself, we recommend bringing in professional cleaners who will make sure to clean all the spots you miss. It may also be wise to use an ongoing cleaning service going while your home is on the market to keep it as fresh as possible for showings.

Make plans for the pets. Prospective buyers may not love your pets as much as you do. If possible, make a plan to have your pets out of the house for showings. Remove all signs of pets for photo and video day (bowls, litter boxes, crates, etc.).

Make plans for the kids’ stuff. Most buyers won’t want to look at all your kids’ toys and finger painting works of art. A few toys are fine, as long as they are organized. You may want to store the extra toys in a hall closet for showings.

Make your house smell good. It’s important for home sellers to be honest with themselves about the smells in their homes and take care of the root causes of these smells, rather than simply masking them. A clean smell and a deodorized smell are two different things, and a strong scent can interfere with the buyer’s ability to make a decision. You may also want to limit cooking certain things that leave a strong odor before showings. Vanilla and citrus are some of the best scents. Essential oils are a great option, too.

Staging. There are certain situations where some light or full staging may be recommended. We will discuss this option with you in more detail during our walk-through.

Real Estate Staging | Kim McCall Design

Photo and video shoot. When your Washington state home is ready, it’s time for the photographer and videographer to work their magic. This will happen a few days before you list your home for sale. Natural light is very important, so plan to have all lights on and blinds up for the shoot. We like to shoot in the best lighting possible, so if there is rain or severe clouds, we may need to reschedule. We can typically have your home’s website live and listed within 48 hours of the shoot. We promise that all of your hard work will be well worth it!

The final once-over. Take one final walk through all the rooms and adjust as necessary. Do you see anything that might distract or turn off a buyer?

Showings. Consider leaving some bottled water and snacks out for potential buyers with a note on the kitchen counter. Buyers love this! Open blinds to let the natural light in. Turn soft music and lights on if possible. Secure valuable items, including medication, cash, and jewelry.

Final note. We’ve helped clients accomplish everything on this list in as little as 4 days. We are here to help you every step of the way. We are a team, so if you need any help or have questions or additional referrals, we have you covered!

Thinking about selling your Washington real estate? Complete the Seller Consultation form to set up a time to meet one-on-one with our team.

See Mortgage Calculator at top.


What is the first step of the home-buying process?

If you plan to finance, getting pre-approved for a mortgage is the first step of the home-buying process. Getting a pre-approval is generally a quick process and demonstrates that you are a serious buyer to both your Realtor® and the person selling the home. A pre-approval may be required before you can view a home in person or put in an offer.

First, you need to know how much you are approved to purchase. Knowing how much home you can afford narrows down online home searching to suitable properties, so no time is wasted considering homes that are not within your budget. Pre-approvals also help prevent disappointment caused by falling in love with homes that are out of your range.

Your lender will help show you a clear picture of what is financially required to buy a home. You’ll know how much money is required for the down payment and closing costs, and if you qualify for any free grant down payment options. If you have credit concerns, your lender can also help you put a plan together to increase your credit score.

Our team has several preferred lenders that we are happy to share with you.

I already own a home—can I sell and buy a home at the same time?

If you want to use the equity in your current home for the down payment on your new home, this is possible. However, it can be tricky, and all parties need to be on their game. Our team does “back-to-back” closings often, but all contingencies need to be completed in a timely fashion. You need to have constant communication between all parties, and organization is a must. Your Realtor® will help walk you through this process.

Why should I buy a home instead of renting one?

It is often more cost-efficient to buy a home rather than rent one. When you buy, you are investing in your own future. When you rent, you are helping your landlord to invest in their future. There also are financial perks, like tax deductions and home equity, that come along with owning a home. There are often low down payment and grant down payment options available.

I have my pre-qualification—what’s next?

Congratulations! This is an exciting time and we would be so honored to help you find houses for sale in the Puget Sound area! We will set up a time to discuss your needs and learn more about what is important to you in your future home. We will then narrow down your criteria in your own personalized automatic e-alert. Our team also has access to off-market opportunities that are not listed online. We pride ourselves on our quick response time and accessibility. The best homes sell fast, and we understand how important it is for them to be accessible and available for you. We will work closely with you to set showings around your schedule.

I found the perfect home—now what?

Once you have found the home that you want to make an offer on, timing is important. Our team uses the best technology to get your purchase agreement together quickly, utilizing digital signatures that you can sign from your phone or computer. We are accessible after traditional business hours and will take the time to run a detailed analysis to determine the true market value of the home you are interested in to ensure you are offering a fair price. We will then use this data to put together an action plan for your offer price and terms. In this market, homes can go fast and it is not uncommon to see multiple offers. Fortunately, we know how to help your offer stand out. There is a lot that goes into the offer process and having an experienced Realtor® in Washington state on your side can help you get your dream home.

What is an earnest deposit?

If you’re ready to make an offer on a home and also want to prove to the home seller that you’re serious about your offer, earnest money is a good way to prove your commitment. When a buyer and seller enter into a contract, the seller takes the home off the market while the transaction moves through the entire process to closing.

Earnest deposits are typically 1% of the purchase price, but if your finances are tight, you can offer a lower amount. The higher the deposit, the more serious you will look to the seller. Your deposit is typically due within 48 hours of going under contract. This deposit is paid to the title company and is credited back to you at closing. If the deal falls through due to a failed home inspection or any other contingencies listed in the contract, the buyer typically gets their earnest money back.

Should I get a home inspection?

Once your offer is accepted, most purchase agreements will give you a 10-day inspection period. This gives you time to do your due diligence. This includes hiring a home inspector and a termite inspector. Even though you are probably really excited by this point, you can’t bypass the home inspection, which is one of the most important aspects of the home buying process. The typical cost of an inspection can range from $400-$700, depending on the square footage and features of the home, pool, etc.

How quickly can I get the keys?

Typical escrow periods range from 30 to 45 days. This gives you enough time to do look into the property and get your loan and appraisal completed.

What is an appraisal?

The findings from an appraisal determine the amount a mortgage lender will let you borrow for the property. Appraisals must be conducted by a licensed, third-party appraiser who has no connection to the buyer, seller, or lender. That way, all parties can be sure the determined market value is fair, unbiased, and free of any influence from any party that could benefit.

The lender usually orders the appraisal, but the borrower is the one who pays for it.

How much do I have to pay a Realtor® to help me buy a house?

Home buyers pay little or no fees to their Realtor® when buying a home. For most home sales, there are two real estate agents involved—one that represents the seller and another who represents the buyer. In Arizona, for most transactions, the home seller takes care of the Realtor® fees. 

Finding a Washington real estate professional is a crucial part of the home-buying process. Buying a home is a huge step, so you want to find someone who is accessible and available—someone who will understand your needs and look out for your best interests during the transaction.

Navigating a real estate purchase can be tricky business. The Internet has made it possible to do a lot of the legwork yourself, but there’s no substitute for an experienced professional. An expert negotiator who knows the market can save you time, money, and heartache by helping you make the right offer, playing hardball when necessary, and staying on top of the process.

How do I search for a home?

Keep in mind that many popular home-searching sites make millions of dollars off of leads. This means these sites are more likely to make homes appear for sale when they are actually sold or closed. This can be frustrating for buyers and a waste of your time. You’ll want to use a site that gives you direct access to the MLS with real-time availability, similar to the access that Realtors® have.

Do I need a Realtor® when buying a brand-new home?

Yes! Never visit model homes without your Realtor®. The sales consultants in the office represent and work for the builder, aka the seller. Builders require that you come with your Realtor® during your first visit to their model homes. Going in alone is risky, and if you end up buying, you may be unrepresented, meaning you have no one on your side to review the legal documents and looking out for your best interests. Builders are not able to give you a better deal if you do not have a Realtor®, so having an experienced Realtor® on your side can actually help you save money. Our team has sold hundreds of new builds and can walk you through each step. Please call us before visiting any model homes.

What are your thoughts on discount agents?

If you have been searching for a home online, you may have seen ads for “discount agents,” or agents that will pay you to use them. Beware of these types of tactics to get your business. There is a lot that goes into a real estate transaction, a lot of room for error, and there is no substitute for having an experienced Realtor® on your side. Navigating these issues takes experience. Given enough years, an experienced agent will have come across just about every issue you can think of. This could be the difference between a blown-up deal and one that holds together.

Ultimately, you have to decide which route is right for you and your family. The chances are good that going with a discount broker probably won’t help you get a better deal when all of the final numbers are negotiated and calculated. There’s a reason why traditional agents and brokers stick around through even the toughest real estate markets, but new discount brokerages tend to pop up only when the market is hot. 

If you need to be Pre-Approved for a Loan:

Peter DeVries | loanDepot

Rhonda Marinkovic – Mortgage Consultant in Bellevue, WA | Caliber Home Loans

The Mason Group Loans – Cornerstone Home Lending, Inc. (

My Preferred Title and Escrow Company:

Carol Robson – WFG National (

Anne Watkins Realtor Puget Sound Community
Anne Watkins

Mobile: (253) 302-1830


Specializations: Residential